3 outdoor women’s tips on hiking and running the trails solo

Going solo on a hike or trail run can be a rewarding experience. But it pays to know a few things to do before you head out.

Going solo on a hike or trail run can be a rewarding experience. But it pays to know a few things to do before you head out.

“Is there anyone out there?”

That’s what I heard while running some trails around dusk last week. I’d heard the woman’s voice before, but didn’t think anything of it until I heard that question emerge from the woods. I stopped in my tracks, listened, then answered, “Yeah, right here!”

“I need help!” was the reply.

What followed: I kept talking to her, picking my way through the brush, homing in on where she might be. Then I saw a small but bright cellphone flashlight through the trees.

When I came up on Crystal, she was a little spooked but grateful someone was around. She told me she came out on the trails a little later in hopes of avoiding the crowds. But she’d never been to this place before, and when it started getting dark, the menagerie of side trails and shadowy woods left her lost, at least a couple of miles away from the trailhead parking lot.

Not exactly “127 Hours,” but to this gal, it was enough to cause more than a little fear. We hiked out of those woods together to a clearer trail and ran back to the trailhead safe and sound.

This incident brought me back to a question I received from a friend of mine named Jennifer who lives in Arkansas. She loves hiking and has dabbled in running, but was wondering what precautions she should take if she were to venture out on the trails for a solo hike.

A great topic. I go out on solo trail runs and hikes regularly. Bigger adventures alone have also happened, including a solo summit of Missouri Mountain in Colorado. Most of the time it’s gone fine, though there has been one near-miss buffalo encounter. Still, no harm was done and those solo hikes and runs are often the most memorable.

But I also realize that it’s just different for me than it is for Jen, or Crystal, or just about any other woman out there.

WOMEN’S PERSPECTIVE

I could try to muddle my way through this topic on my own, but it’s better to let some women’s voices flesh it out. So I went to social media and got a few outdoor women to give me – and thus, you – their thoughts.

Heather Balogh

Heather Balogh

Heather Balogh is an experienced backcountry adventurer, traveler, hiker, mountaineer and trail runner. Her take is pretty simple: Don’t let the idea of going solo on the trails intimidate you.

“Honestly, I’ve never been concerned. I do always keep my cell phone with me in case and always tell someone where I’m running with a general idea of time frame so they’ll know if I’m gone too long. Otherwise, I think trails are WAY safer than roads. Any weirdo can be on a road. Trails take commitment and usually, creeps don’t have that level of determination.”

Heidi Nicole Kumm

Heidi Nicole Kumm

Heidi Nicole Kumm is a trail runner and recently, a 100-mile ultramarathon finisher. She gave a great bullet-point list of things to think about before heading off on the trails alone:

“Try to hit up popular trails during busy times so you’re not truly alone.

“Let someone know where you are and your route — then stick to it.

“Go on trails you’re comfortable with…that way if anything is ‘off’ you’ll pick up on it sooner.

“If you don’t have runners to go with, maybe recruit mountain biker friends to at least be at the same trailhead. Or even hikers.

“If you can avoid it, don’t run at dusk/dawn — mostly because of animals, not people. I’ve only ever seen rattlesnakes at dusk.

“Know what kind of animals are in the area and if they are a threat (when I moved to Colorado, coyotes scared me. They don’t anymore, although I do know what to do if they get too close to me, so I’m prepared).

“Oh, and if it makes you more comfortable, run in areas that have cell service — then you can call for help if there is a rattlesnake bite or you can call a friend to chat if there is a creeper person around.”

Noel Johnson

Noel Johnson

Noel Johnson is a hiker, climber, backpacker and mountaineer who got her start solo hiking up the slopes of Pikes Peak. Since then, she’s tagged more than a hundred high summits, many of them solo. I’m lucky to have accompanied her on a few of these. Anyway, security is one thing that is on her mind, as well as being prepared for worst-case scenarios.

“For me… I ALWAYS inform my husband or someone reliable of my start time/approximate finish time, trail I will be on, and I make certain to call as soon as I’m in range to let him/them know I am on my way home.

“I used to carry pepper spray with me, but I have been told that even the slightest wind shift can backfire it onto me if I had to use it, so I carry my stun gun on my pack within easy grabbing reach.  I also carry a whistle on my pack (I’ve heard that can be deterrent if any creepers come around).  Trekking poles (at least one) can be used quite handily as well in many situations.

“ I know, I’ve mainly focused on safety against attacks….but in other solo hiking good tips….I ALWAYS carry a headlamp (no matter if I’m just on a short day hike…along with the 10 essentials of hiking).  Along with those, I carry an emergency bivy… a $12 item that could mean the difference between life or death in an emergency overnight in the woods. I normally always have an extra pair of gloves/mittens and enough food to last a couple of days.

“Also, I bring a GPS and map and compass (although I could use another navigation course to refresh for the latter).

“You should know the trail system that you are going to hike, too… I’ve made mistakes in the past and have gotten off course… it can be a bit intimidating.”

LOOKING AT DECISIONS

So let’s go back to the situation I found my fellow trail runner in. Clearly, she made a couple of mistakes. She went out in late afternoon on trails she didn’t know, and then got caught alone in the dark.

However, let’s look at a couple of things she did right.

For starters, she had her cellphone with her. She told me that she’d called her boyfriend about her predicament just before I heard her. So even if no one had come along, someone knew she was in trouble and could either come looking for her or send for help.

Secondly, she didn’t panic and just sit there. She recognized she had a problem and kept making decisions. One was the call to her boyfriend. Another was calling out for help. As it turned out, that second action is what eventually got her on a more secure footing to head home.

And that leads me to re-emphasize that point. If you ever get lost, the best thing you can do is keep making decisions. This will keep you from panicking, it will put your mind and body in a proactive posture (although sometimes staying put when you’re lost is the best course of action), and may ultimately give you the solution to your problem, which in this case was being lost in a strange place.

So there it is. Good, trustworthy advice from three women who have high outdoor cred. Learn from them and don’t be afraid to explore the trails on your own.

Want to know more about these gals? Check out Heather’s website or follow her on Twitter @AColoradoGal. You can catch up on Heidi’s doings here or follow her on Twitter @runaroundaroo. And to find Noel, just hike the 14ers or search 14ers.com and ask for the Cookie Hiker.

Bob Doucette

Alone time: A case for going solo

There are days where you wish you never would have gotten out of bed.

Most of the time, those days pass. The sun rises the next day, you breathe easier and chalk up one bad day as something you have to go through every now and then.

But there are times when those days run back-to-back. Or maybe they run on for a week. Or several weeks.

I’ve had a few of those stretches. Personally, I’d like to forget most of 2010-2011. But more recently, it goes something like this…

There is, legitimately, a lot of angst over this little guy.

There is, legitimately, a lot of angst over this little guy.

I wake up in the morning and check the headlines. Ebola has made it to the United States. Elsewhere, some crazy, well-armed maniacs are making a case for beheading people they don’t like. And according to one group, the rainbow flag is now the new “sign of the beast.”

Add to that a few long, stressful shifts on the job, and let me tell you, I’m ready to escape. I’m ready to be away from people. I’m ready to see no one, hear nothing, and just be still for awhile.

Funny thing. I was involved in a Twitter chat recently where the topic was solo travel. It got me to thinking about those times when I hit the road for some serious alone time.

Back when I was in college, my family was spread out all over the world. At one point, I had a sister in west Texas, a brother in Colorado, another brother in Germany and my parents in France. I was attending courses at a small Baptist liberal arts college smack in the middle of Oklahoma.

I was cool being on my own. I liked school. I had good friends, things to do and a certain feeling of, dare I say, “accomplishment” for making it on my own. Never mind that I had my parents’ gas card and plenty of help along the way. But I digress.

When the holidays rolled around and campus cleared out, I’d often make my way to my sister’s place in Midland, a small west Texas city built on the petro-riches found deep underground in the Permian Basin. The routine: Load up my duffle, slip on a thick hoodie and a jacket, and buy a pack of cheap cigars as my truck rolled southwest to the flattest land in all of Texas. That’s an eight-hour drive, boring as hell and I loved every minute of it.

Probably not your idea of a good time, but hear me out. After a semester of communal living, tight class schedules, high stress and all that other business, those eight hours on the road — blowing cigar smoke out the window as the sound of the engine, the tires on the road and the music on the radio droned on — was just the release I needed. The yellow, orange, red and purple glow of sunset over the horizon was a pretty sweet bonus.

I’m sure the trip would have gone by faster with some company, but then I wouldn’t have been able to burn all those cigars, wouldn’t have been able to sing all those songs a full volume, and wouldn’t have had all that time to decompress.

Going solo is often about just that – decompression. The time alone without distractions to just drink in what’s going on around you without having to satisfy anyone else’s agenda but your own is exactly the tonic I need when life gets a little too crazy for a little too long.

A rainy day in the Wichita Mountains. This was taken on a different outing, but the visual effect is the same.

A rainy day in the Wichita Mountains. This was taken on a different outing, but the visual effect is the same.

Those couple of years that went awry (I mentioned 2010-2011 earlier) was also a time when I had one of the most amazing and memorable outdoor experiences of my life. A solo hike in the Wichita Mountains of southwestern Oklahoma included a near-miss with a charging buffalo, a record-setting torrential rain storm and some absolutely incredible scenery – ancient granite peaks shrouded in rain and fog, transforming the appearance from sandy, beige granite into icy hues of pewter, silver and white.

When I tell people about that hike, they wonder aloud what would have happened to me if that buffalo would have gored me (self-rescue would have been a serious issues), or how I could possibly enjoy being soaked to the bone for hours on end.

But being alone allowed me to really pay attention to my surroundings. When you’re solo, your senses are heightened to a point where every sight, smell and scent is much more intense than it would have been if you had shared it with others.

It also gave me time to think. And believe me, I had a lot on my mind.

But in also focusing on the task at hand – navigating wilderness with no one else there to help – it also allowed me to escape. Maybe not forget. But even if for a day or two, just to not be where all the world’s troubles were, where all my problems were –  yes, that is an escape. As hostile as the conditions, and maybe the wildlife, were, that place at that time was a refuge not unlike the smoke-filled cab of my little pickup motoring down a west Texas highway.

More recently, a group climb in northern Colorado got washed out by bad weather, forcing me to make a choice: Go solo in a drier part of the state or go home. I chose the former.

I camped at the trailhead parking lot, which was dark and empty, nodding off to sleep to the mellower tunes I had on my phone before waking up in the pre-dawn hours and setting off on the trail up Missouri Mountain.

When you're walking into this misty void alone, the experience is visceral. This is on Missouri Mountain's summit ridge, just shy of 14,000 feet.

When you’re walking into this misty void alone, the experience is visceral. This is on Missouri Mountain’s summit ridge, just shy of 14,000 feet.

I suffered a bit on that trip, and the weather was dodgy the entire ascent. The only voice I heard was in my head, telling me to turn around and pack it in. But that same sense of heightened awareness I experienced in the Wichitas returned as I plodded my way up past 13,000 feet, and ultimately an amazing time where, for the first time in my life, I had a high summit to myself.

Hours later, I was back in my car headed toward civilization. As it turned out, I missed the news of the day – a mass shooting at a Navy station that ultimate kicked off another predictable social media shoutfest over guns.

At that point, I wished I was back in the bosom of wilderness, and away from the angst and outrage of “the real world.”

After the week I just had, I feel that pull pretty bad. The world can be a noisy, angry place. When I’ve had my fill of that, the quiet indifference of the wild, taken in on my own, sounds like paradise.

Bob Doucette

The beauty and peace found in going solo

One of these guys provided a lifelong memory for me. (Courtesy photo)

I cannot figure out exactly why there is this urge within some of us to head out into the wilderness alone. Lord knows, there are compelling reasons not to. But the pull is there just the same.

Jesus spent 40 days wandering the Judean wilderness before the start of his earthly ministry. Aside from battling the elements of the desert, he also encountered Satan (and you thought your bear encounter was spooky).

More recently, there are the tragic and near tragic tales of young men who felt compelled to test themselves in the wild by themselves. Chris McCandless made it a lifestyle before getting in over his head in Alaska. His solo foray there famously cost him his life. Aron Ralston took on Blue John Canyon alone in eastern Utah’s wilderness, had a bad slip and lost a forearm but lived to tell the tale.

And yet we still go.

It’s a well-worn practice. Vision quests are a part of some Native American tribal customs. And then there’s the walkabouts of the Aborigines of Australia. People lose themselves, on purpose, hoping to find themselves. Or something like that. But there is something about the wild spaces of the world that call out to us, as if being in their midst we will magically find the answers to the things that trouble us, and by going alone, there won’t be  the noises of civilization or even other people to distract you from what the wilderness is trying to say. Many a prophet has walked into the wild only to later emerge with some truth for the masses. Even more just go to test themselves, find themselves or otherwise learn something new to break free from some unseen force of the mundane.

I’d never compare any of my personal journeys to guys like Ralston, McCandless or any number of others who have tackled legitimate solo adventures. But the pull is there just the same. A little over a year-and-a-half ago, I found myself troubled by a confluence of personal crises that pointed me toward the desire to find my own personal redoubt where I could think, reflect and regroup. I happened upon a few free days and some time alone, then set my sights on one of the few wild places left in Oklahoma – the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge and its rugged patch of weathered granite peaks, scrub oaks and cedar called Charon’s Garden. I’ve been gradually exploring the refuge’s trails and mountains, seeing anything from gentle paths to some of the most technical rock climbing this side of the Rocky Mountains.

So I gathered my gear, loaded the car and took my demons along for a solo day trip I hoped would end with me scrambling to the top of Sunset Peak, a mellower but significant summit on the western edge of the wildlife refuge.

I’d like to say I did all the things you should do when heading out solo. Some things I did – making sure people knew where I was going and how long I’d be gone – but there were a few other details I neglected, like checking the weather. I eyeballed it as I left, grateful for cloud cover that would take the bite out of the early summer heat. Unfortunately, the eye test did not reveal much about the massive storms rolling in from the west that would dump near-record rainfall in the places where I planned to go. Blissfully ignorant, I was on my way.

The drive had me fight monsoon-like dumps almost the entire way, letting up only when I got a little closer to my destination. Disembarking from my car and gearing up at the trailhead I was pleased to see that there didn’t appear to be too many other people around. Apparently, the weather had scared off most would-be hikers. Clouds kept the temperatures down in the low 80s, about as good as I could expect in early June.

Surprisingly, I did run into a group of hikers – mixed generations, with their leader checking out a field book of wild birds he’d hoped that he and the others in his group would see. One teenage girl piped up about seeing a buffalo blocking their way, but they were headed back up the trail anyway. I knew they wouldn’t be going my way – most likely, they were heading south, then east through the popular Boulder Field hike. I was going west where far fewer people tended to go.

One of the things I’ve learned is that as much as I like my solitude, I work better with a partner or in a team. Little things that I might overlook when it comes to orienteering and route-finding are masked when you have a buddy. Not so when you’re alone. I was amazed at how many turns I missed, and how I ended up having to turn around several times just to get back on track.

It seemed as if I made one wrong turn after another, heading toward the Boulder Field, only to retrace my steps and re-examine which way would most likely take me back to where I needed to go.

Eventually I spotted the path that would lead to a familiar creek bed crossing which would lead me to the route that would hopefully take me west toward Sunset Peak. But more fun was on its way.

The route ahead was a mix of thick woodlands and more barren hilltops, which under different circumstances would not be a problem other than the repeated elevation loss and gain. But the thunder was getting louder, meaning the lightning was getting closer. This wasn’t as much of a problem down low, but on ridgelines and hilltops that were ahead, I would be the highest object around. Getting tagged by a thunderbolt was not my idea of a good time.

The rain was also starting to intensify. That wasn’t so much of a bother as the lightning, but nonetheless, standing out in the open getting dumped on while waiting for the storm to pass was not very appealing. So I hunkered down in the woods in the driest place I could find and waited.

I found myself pulled in a couple of directions. I wanted to get a move on, as the hike to Sunset was still mostly ahead of me, and seeing as I’d never been there I wanted plenty of time to make sure I’d arrive in a timely fashion. But there was something very soothing about listening to the rain hitting the foliage and my rain slicker while being interrupted by rolling thunder. Despite the rain, birds were still calling out from their own little shelters among the trees.

It was in this type of thick woods that I had a close encounter with a buffalo.

As the thunder moved on, I decided it was time to get moving again. This portion of the trail is a tangle of thickets, blackjack oak and other foliage, all of which was in its full spring glory in terms of color and lushness. This tends to dampen noises, which were further muffled by the steady percussion of light rain hitting the leaves. In this environment, I would discover that I was not alone when it came to seeking refuge within the woods.

Ahead of me I could see the trail getting ready to cross a familiar creek bed that would lead to the prospector trail which would take me toward Sunset Peak. But it was what I didn’t see that would give me what ended up being the most memorable part of the trip.

I didn’t see it first. I heard it. A loud, angry snort to my right, followed by a flash of brown and black that burst through the woods. I turned quickly and wheeled, blurting out an abrupt “whoa” before realizing I’d just survived a near miss. Up the trail from where I’d just come, a buffalo galloped, then turned and stared at me from about 50 feet away.

It took me a little while to register what actually happened. I had a “wildlife encounter” that could have gone a lot worse than it did. Being alone and getting gored by a buffalo was not what I came here for. Only then did my heart rate rise just a little. The two of us eyeballed each other for a few more moments and, satisfied the buffalo was just as freaked out as I was, I figured it was safe to keep going.

You might be wondering how I somehow rolled up on a 1,200-pound animal that was practically in front of me. I find myself amazed at my inability to spot these creatures sooner than I do (this is a long-running problem), but in this case I think there are good reasons why I stumbled upon the beast unaware of its presence. The underbrush was quite thick and in full leaf, and the buffalo was nestled pretty deep within it. Its brown and black fur may as well have been tree trunks and shadows for all I knew, and it was staying quite still and quiet until the last moment. It’s not much of an excuse, I suppose, but for now that’s what I’m going with.

It brings to mind an essential truth when it comes to wilderness hiking and trekking when you’re on your own. Had this thing plowed me into the ground before running off, having people around would have been a huge asset. Someone could tend to my injuries or go for help. But on my own, any mishap – with the buffalo, or a fall, or an untimely lightning strike – could be lethal. I would have been forced to drag my way back to the trailhead, injuries and all, provided I could do anything at all.

This may sound strange, but that is part of the allure of going solo. It’s all about your own wits carrying you through. The preparations you make beforehand, the experience you fall back on and the hope that you make the right decisions when problems arise are the only things you have to go on because there’s no chance to rely on anyone’s counsel. You’re a committee of one, and right or wrong, every decision is final. Even when you do everything right, dumb luck can strike – an untimely slip or, let’s say, a wildlife encounter gone awry. Stuff happens, and when it happens to a person who is alone, the danger factor increases significantly.

Off trail, I went up to take a look around and found this cool outcrop.

Having avoided anything more than a scare from the buffalo, I decided to keep going. When I finally started back west again, I ended up taking a side trail – not the main trail – to the top of a ridge that was clearly off the path where I wanted to go. Another delay was at hand, but the view from the ridge was actually worth experiencing. Atop the ridge was a beautiful rocky outcrop that would have made for an excellent scramble. Being higher up, I was able to spot the trail I was supposed to be following. So score one for getting up high to take a better look around.

Unfortunately, the weather was starting to deteriorate again. Thunder began to get louder and the rains were returning, and being that high on an exposed perch was something that needed to be remedied fast. Rather than go back the way I came, I chose to boulder-hop down the steep west face of the ridge and rejoin the main trail.

The rain intensified, and waves of thunder and lightning came and went. I came to a part of the trail where I had to opportunity to either turn south toward Crab Eyes, a distinct minor peak whose main features are two delicately perched boulders atop a slim granite column, or continue west following a creek bed and accompanying trail that would get me to Sunset Peak.

But looking at the time and the weather, I knew the jig was up. So many delays had already put me behind, and I was still a ways away from Sunset Peak. I would be going across terrain I’d never seen, then would have faced doing some route-finding to get to Sunset’s summit.

More problematic was the fact that Sunset’s bald, granite summit was high above anything else around it, making it a wonderful place for lightning strikes to gather. Scrambling up slick, slabby granite slopes only to get turned into a human lightning rod didn’t sound like a good way to cap off the trip. I decided to bail on Sunset Peak, turn south, and make my new target a peaceful spot just under the summit tower at Crab Eyes.

I’ve written about Crab Eyes many times before. It’s one of my favorite places in all of the Wichtas for a couple of reasons. First, it’s just an unusual rock formation, a place where time, wind and water has formed this rocky outcrop into something that resembles the head of a hermit crab, with two massive boulders on top serving as the “eyes” of the crab. You can see Crab Eyes from a long ways off, and it is one of the signature profiles of the range.

Crab Eyes also provides a really great place to stop and rest. You can hike up to the base of its summit tower and find a sheltered, flat place to kick back and relax for a bit and be treated to an incredible view of the eastern reaches of Charon’s Garden. The combination of thick woods and rocky summits makes for an amazing panorama.

My new destination wouldn’t be novel, but it would be pleasant. The rain let up enough to where the wildlife started to come out again, mostly in the form of birds. Breezes whistled through the trees and over the grasses as bird songs could be heard faintly nearby. Not many people go this far into Charon’s Garden, and the rain had shooed away the few hikers who started their day here. My mind began to clear as now I no longer had to think about route-finding, buffalo or the weather. Also absent were the man-made noises that were typical of my day: phones, cars, the television and voices of other people. None of that was here right then. Instead, I finally had time to stop, think and reflect on life.

A look at Crab Eyes from the north.

At that point, I reached into my pack, grabbed a little trail food and some water. I munched on a nutrition bar and sipped my drink, looking around and just listening. There was conversation all around me, but more of the natural kind between animals as well as between the elements. With the weather holding up and a little time to spare I reclined on the ground, head resting on my pack and dozed for a few minutes, letting the ambient noises of the wilderness lull me to sleep. Let me tell you, a good 20-minute nap under the skies is about as awesome as it gets.

After a time, I’d gotten the rest I needed, had some food in my belly and was ready to get moving again. About then was when the weather decided it had had enough of cooperating with me.

As I made my way down the staircase part of the trail leaving Crab Eyes, the rain started anew, at first pretty light, but intensifying as time went on. Shortly after getting off the hill it turned into an outright downpour.

I knew that dry creek beds could turn into raging torrents in a matter of minutes. All it takes is saturated ground and heavy rainfall over a sustained period of time. I wasn’t too worried about it out here, but I kept my eyes and ears open just the same, particularly around creek bed crossings.

At that moment, the entire character of the Wichitas began to change. Close to the ground, the established trails – particularly the ones going up or down hillsides – turned into fast flowing creeks. There was no avoiding the water, and within minutes my clothes and boots were soaked through. This would be the last hike for the venerable boots I wore that day, as they’d given up the ghost on any pretense of water resistance long ago. Today, they’d go out in a blaze of glory, sloshing through one of the hardest rainstorms to hit southwest Oklahoma in decades.

So I went with it. There was no point looking for dry ground to walk on because there wasn’t any. All of it was pretty much covered in standing water except for the granite slabs and rocks that poked through the soil.

But what struck me was the appearance of the surrounding countryside. I’ve written about it before, and sometimes words fail me when I try to describe it. There was something about how the sheets of rain changed the colors and contours of the range at that point.

The rain erased much of my sense of depth, meaning that ridgelines and the profiles of higher mountains melded into one continuous, jagged skyline. The colors of the mountains – usually a combination of pink and gray — turned into something closer to silver, almost icy. Boulders perched atop the summits of these well-worn peaks now transformed their outlines into the spiny back of some mythological monster from ancient times. Had the temperatures not been in the lower 80s, you’d almost think I’d stepped into another time, perhaps into the misty realms of Nordic lore.

In that moment, no one was seeing what I saw. No one was hearing the rain pound the range or thunder echoing off the canyon walls that surrounded me. No one in their right mind was out there. I’m sure they’d long bagged it, heading for their cars or the shelter of some nearby restaurant. This moment, this intense, magical slice of time, was mine. As much as I would have loved to have shared it with someone, there was no one who would be willing to be there with me. The things I’m telling you now barely give insight to it. All I can tell you is that I felt extremely blessed to be there. These images, sounds and smells are burned into my memory for as long as God will allow me to breathe.

Some people might wonder why I’d go out here alone, and what I just described is your answer. The experiences, and I do mean all of them, are so much more vivid when everything is on you. That buffalo encounter? Yeah, I won’t be forgetting that anytime soon. The quiet minutes at Crab Eyes and the reflection I had there begs me to go back. Seeing the range swathed in rain was like looking at a new bride, unveiling herself in her wedding dress for the first time for everyone to see. With people, it would have been good (provided they wouldn’t whine too much about the weather). Alone, with only yourself and your surroundings, it’s just a much more visceral experience.

In the end, I retraced my steps back through the thickets (and thus the locale of my buffalo encounter), taking care to make lots of noise so whatever was out there knew I was coming. I was soaked, tired, hungry and happy. I can remember when I first wrote about it, summing it up thusly:

“It was at that time I realized how lucky I was. At that moment, legions of people were at work. Others were at home watching TV. Some were in jail. Or overseas at war. I was out here, reveling in what was, for me, a unique experience.”

Returning to the trailhead, two women parked there rolled down their window, asking me if I’d seen anyone on the trail. I guess they were waiting on a couple of boys who’d gone up the Elk Mountain trail.

I told them I hadn’t. I hadn’t seen a soul.

Bob Doucette

On Twitter @RMHigh7088